Just after dawn I set out along the gravel road. At the spot I had marked I climbed over the barbwire fence and through a maze of tall willows.
Years ago someone had dug a water hole here for cattle. Now only wildlings come to drink.
Over time nature reclaimed the huge hump of dirt and planted her own garden. This morning the rising sun revealed what she sowed.
Arnica Arnica spp.
Make room for wonder in each day
If only for brief moments.
It’s good medicine.
Pale coralroot orchid Corallorrhiza trifida
Pink elephants: Hallucinations supposedly seen by those who’ve had too much to drink.
You won’t need whiskey to see these pink elephants. Just squat down and take a peek. It’s worth getting a bit damp and muddy: large head, big ears, long curving trunk. (Are those tusks?) Yup, it’s an elephant.
I encountered my first elephant heads years ago near Lake Louise in Banff National Park. The tall pink flower stalks and frilly fernlike leaves captivated me.
Years passed before I saw them again — this time a small patch near the corner of our woods. Shaded by willows, cool and moist. Almost hidden. Some years they do better than others and this is one.
Like its relatives Indian paintbrush and yellow rattle, elephant head has a penchant for the neighbours’ food, stealing it via the root system. Nice work if you can get it.
Leaves start out red, but turn green as chlorophyll builds up. The tips still retain a reddish colour.
Flower stalks grow to about 15 cm (6 in). Look for them in bogs and wet meadows.
Elephant head grows across Canada and the western USA. There’s even a rare all-white form. Imagine that — an albino elephant. Now that might call for a drink.
Elephant head Pedicularis groenlandica
Good advice. Glad I took it. Might have missed you otherwise.
On my homeward trek from the creek I took the cow path through the aspens. That’s when it happened.
I paused to look down and there you were. Never seen you around here before. But you’re well enough established that our lack of meeting is my oversight, not yours.
I scooted down, plunked my butt just off the trail and introduced myself.
You: spotted coralroot orchid. Me? Dumbstuck by your beauty.
Spotted coralroot orchid
Beside the trail
Spotted coralroot orchid
Unfolding flower head
Spotted coralroot orchid Corallorhiza maculata
The creek is is more than thirsty. Sluggish green water is all that remains, and that only in the deeper pools.
In between, just mud and drying rocks where butterflies puddle.
But in those slimy spots, a surprise: White water crowfoot.
The entire plant — except for the flowers — lives under water. Like land plants, the thread-like leaves make food but they absorb their carbon dioxide from water rather than air.
The leaves take on a fan shape, spreading out, interlocking with nearby plants and if conditions are right, form huge mats.
I found one today in full bloom. The water surface was blindingly white, each flower buoyed up by a short stalk, pointed to the sun.
An odd little plant related to columbine, clematis and larkspur.
Betwixt and between.
White water crowfoot & underwater leaves
White water crowfoot with underwater leaves
Floating mat of white water crowfoot
White water crowfoot Ranunculus aquatilis ?
Almost missed them this year.
Found a few bright blooms still hanging on. The rest have succumbed to heat and dryness, blooming quickly, making seeds, then retiring from the field.
Glad I found you.
Shooting star bud
Shooting star Dodecatheon radicatum